Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
After jumping into Carey's alt-history fantasy world with Phèdre's trilogy and having my mind blow, and then having my heart ripped out of my chest by Imriel's trilogy, I thought it was time to jump into Moirin's trilogy. It begins with NAAMAH'S KISS, about one hundred years since we last left Imriel's happy ending.
The next character, Moirin, is a half Alban (of the Maghuin Dhonn) half D'Angeline girl growing up in solitude with her mother. With this heritage comes some magical skills such as concealment and healing capabilities. I won't dawdle too long a spoiler-free summary - all you need to know is that Moirin's father is a Priest of Naamah, which means Moirin grows up to inherit super sexy abilities. Because it's not a trip in this fantasy world unless the main character is having a crapton of awesome sex from the age of 14 that makes you rethink your own love life.
But, basically, Moirin is charged by the goddess of the Maghuin Dhonn to go out and search for her destiny. This leads her first to Terra D'ange where she meets her father and becomes enveloped in royal and religious intrigue. Later, she follows her destiny to Ch'in (China), where she helps the royal princess and heir rid herself of the literal dragon inside her and stop a civil war that will quickly spill over into the rest of the world. Of course, she is aided by a multitude of friends...and lovers.
This book was a breezy, easy read. The language was the easiest I've encountered from this world yet, and it may have something to do with Moirin being uneducated in comparison to the previous two narrators. Yet her voice almost mimics Phèdre's in her overuse of phrases ("Stone and sea!!" anyone?) and zinging one-liners....literally. One thing that's always bothered me about Carey's writing is her overuse of one-line paragraphs. They were already ridiculous before (and thus completely destroying the effect) but Moirin takes it to a new level where sometimes you'll have three in a row. It goes from eye-roll worthy to sigh-inducing very quickly. Moirin, ~honey~, not everything is really that powerful. I promise.
Most of the reviews I see seem to say that the first half the story was relatively slow and doesn't pick up until Moirin sets off for Ch'in. I felt the opposite. I loved reading about her life in Alba and picking up all sorts of cool things about the Maghuin Dhonn, a people vilified in previous trilogies. I also enjoyed reading about her spiritual encounters once she traveled to Terra D'Ange, and of course, her super hot relationship with Queen Jehanne. Just when I was really getting settled in, however, we're off to Ch'in, and things got boring and predictable real fast. Princess Snow Tiger (ugh, is there reason why she was referred to by her name's translation when nobody else BUT the bad guy was? Her real name, Xue Hu, is very beautiful) had a lot of potential as a kick-ass warrior princess, but instead came off as flat, even when granting how she was raised and Ch'in decorum. The entire storyline from here mimicked that of the previous book, Kushiel's Mercy, all the way down to the impending civil war brought on by a magician looking for world domination. I also was not that impressed with the Western Savior aspect of having to have Moirin, a European, coming in to save the Asians with her Western-Gods sent magic. In the world of the book it was not quite so transparent, but given OUR world implications and seeing that Carey goes out of her way to be meticulous about other cultures in this alt-history, it was a bit much. Even Phèdre was more of a visitor to the African realms in her trilogy as opposed to an instigator of change and saving everybody. It was not the end of the book, but it bugged me a little, nonetheless.
Of course the subplots in these novels revolve around romance. Sometimes, I forgot how young Moirin was. I reckon she was in her mid, possibly late teens towards the end of this tale. And in that time she had a lot of sex, mostly with men. I'm used to that by now, even though I never want see "suckle" used sexually ever. Again. Most of her partners were a part of her sexual awakening, and by the time she met Raphael in Terra D'Ange it turned to plot-related. My favorite relationship to see her in was with Jehanne. I feel like in Phèdre's trilogy we never got to see enough lesbian interaction, even though she was clearly obsessed with Melisandre. (Who was, of course, the villain.) So imagine my chagrin when (view spoiler)[ it suddenly shifted to Bao becoming Moirin's biggest love interest. I thought he was a good character, but their relationship felt incredibly forced. Probably because it literally was forced by a "tonic" potion. It's also reminiscent of Phèdre and Joscelin's dynamic to the point it's not even laughable, but kinda sad. And after the ending when they become bound in their souls,it's obvious the next two books are going to be All About Them and how much they're in love. Gag. Bring back the lesbians. (hide spoiler)] tl;dr hello cliches I can live without.
For all my complaints, however, you'll see I still rated this four stars. I really did enjoy this book for all its faults and could have read it all in one sitting if I could have stopped time to do so. As I said before, it is an easy read - for those who have read the previous trilogies of this world, this will probably be an even easier reader. I never had to reread something to make sure I understood what was going on. The dialogue was smooth, even if repetitive. Moirin is a fine character - I am not as attached to her as I was to Phèdre and Imriel by the end of their first books, but I do not dislike her either. Although I will say I have no particular liking for any other characters, besides perhaps Fainche, Moirin's mother, and Queen Jehanne. I also maintain that Carey is a master storyteller: she leaves no threads unknotted and everything has a purpose. You may wonder for a long time what the purpose of something will BE, but when it comes, you kick yourself for not seeing it sooner. On that end, I am excited for the future books, because she left a loooot of clues that we'll be coming back to Raphael and the fallen gods. (I am so excited, seriously. SERIOUSLY. I will be sorely disappointed if nothing comes from what-happened-before-Moirin-left.)
If you enjoyed the first two trilogies, you will surely enjoy this one too. More, or less, I could not say. Thus far I enjoy it less, but that is still a compliment to Carey's abilities as an author. I have already started the second book and will likely chomp through it like it was chocolate.
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